M100 YEJ 2022


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M100 Young European Journalists Workshop 2022

Journalistic impartiality in times of war – Dealing with Fake News and Disinformation

10 – 15 September 2022, Berlin & Potsdam
(Arrival 9 September, departure 16 September)

Fake news and disinformation have an impact on our society, our politics, our economy, on democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and on our security.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which was prepared long in advance by the Russian side through targeted false information which also plays a major role in the war, shows this in a particularly drastic way. Here, parallel to the military war with all its suffering and horror, a bitter information war is also being waged, a war for images, emotions, interpretive sovereignty and truth.

It makes clear how important it is to recognise, identify and combat fake news. How important and difficult thorough research is for journalists and media to be able to distinguish facts from fakes from the endless stream of information in the digital age.

In our six-day M100 Young European Journalists Seminar, which we have organised in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, we have teached participants how to recognise fake news and how professional fact checkers and platforms like Facebook deal with the growing flood of false news and disinformation. How Fake News is dealt with during the war, how it is recognised and how it is combated and what is needed for this. What role traditional and social media play. What dynamics they develop and how journalists and fact-checkers in trouble spots and in various other countries in Europe deal with them. With the seminar, M100 also wants to contribute in the European Year of Youth to make the opinion of young people from all over Europe (EU and Eastern Partnership countries) more heard, to support them in their professional development in the field of journalism, to teach them new skills, to bring them in contact with important key figures in the media industry all over Europe and thus to improve their opportunities and career perspectives. The M100YEJ was supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, for which we would like to express our gratitude.


After a short welcome by Belma Bagdat, Programme Coordinator Friedrich Naumann Foundation, and Sabine Sasse, Head of Programme M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, the participants of this year’s M100 Sanssouci Colloquium introduced themselves: 21 young journalists from 17 European countries had been selected from 70 applicants to deepen their knowledge about disinformation and fake news and to learn about similarities and differences in journalistic work and the handling of disinformation in different countries and regions. The participants came from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. Part of the workshop was dedicated to “Mental Health in Journalism”, an important but still widely underestimated and neglected issue in media houses and newsrooms.

Victoria Graul

“Introduction to the Topic followed by Discussion”
The first workshop session offered a holistic approach to better understand the dynamics and strategies of spreading disinformation. Victoria Graul, founder of the German-language podcast “Digga Fake – Fake News & Fact-Checking” and M100 alumna, started by explaining terms used in the context of information disruption. A general distinction is made between misinformation, disinformation and malinformation:
– Disinformation refers to false and purposefully generated information intended to cause harm to a person, social group, organisation or country.
– Misinformation is false information that has not been produced with the intention of causing harm, but because it has been produced with the intention of causing harm.
It is misinformation that is not generated with the intention of causing harm, but is passed on out of ignorance, believing it to be true.
– Malinformation is information that is based on truth, but placed in a different context in order to harm individuals, organisations or countries.
Victoria also introduced the concept of a value chain for the production of disinformation, involving different actors. She pointed to the 2016 case of Macedonian youths who created fake news websites with highly polarising content to improve their income. Participants also learned about the pivotal role of trends along historical development that contribute to the growing societal debate on combating disinformation. For example, the rise of tech companies has led to platform capitalism, to which some governments will respond with regulatory policies.
• Fake news are usually well prepared and well thought out by the actors.
• Activating feelings and emotions is key to appeal to the audience and mislead them.
• There are not always clearly distinguished boundaries between disinformation, misinformation and malinformation
• Newspaper editors are not only amplifiers but in some cases also actors of disinformation.
• The crisis of journalism is also linked to neoliberalism and the dynamics of the free market.
• The concept of the value chain helps to identify specific actors involved in different stages of the creation of disinformation.

Caroline Lindekamp

“Collaboration, AI and Crowd Sourcing: How CORRECTIV Explores New Strategies to Counter Disinformation”
The 2nd workshop session was dedicated to how fact-checking organisations work. Caroline Lindekamp, head of the “noFake” project at the German non-profit newsroom Correctiv! explained the organisation’s principles, guidelines and projects. One example that falls into this category is the CORRECTIV.Faktenforum project, where users have the opportunity to engage as fact checkers and are supported by AI-based assistance tools and community trainers. She also shed light on the current situation regarding the establishment of a European fact-checking standards network and presented participants with a verification toolset for investigation using open-source intelligence.
The focus of the non-profit research network Correctiv! is on topics of high relevance (climate, education, law, medicine, economy, extremism), exposing deficits and explaining complex facts. The team consists of 12 journalists and works according to the guidelines of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). Correctiv! is currently setting up the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN).
In the case of suspected false reports, Lindekamp said in her presentation, the fact-checkers ask themselves the following questions (which everyone confronted with possible false reports should ask themselves): Who is behind a tweet/post? Is the website reputable? Who and what is mentioned in the imprint? What if there is no imprint? How serious do the text and images appear? What is said and how is it presented? Are the image and context coherent? What about the sources? Is the information consistent with other reports? Is there fact-checking?
In order to check facts, fact-checkers should follow these 10 rules:
1. use neutral language. Do not make fun, no irony.
2. refrain from judgements (“conspiracy theorist”).
3. cite all sources and link to them in the original.
4. always cite at least 2 sources, preferably primary sources.
5. strictly structure according to the news pyramid (most important first).
6. the headline should be able to stand on its own
7. do not repeat the false claim too often – and always put it in context.
8. don’t put the context at the end of the text.
9. don’t make mistakes… (at Correctiv! the 6-eyes-principle applies).
10. if you do make a mistake, correct it transparently.
• Disinformation often reaches a larger audience than fact-checks.
• Some people believe neither official information nor fact checks, but only trust their gut feeling.
• Fact checks are often complex, difficult and time-consuming to produce.
• Often, seemingly official information is given as a source, but it is distorted.

Karin A. Wenger

“Side-Kick: Mental Health in Journalism”
The question of how the profession affects the mental health of journalists was the focus of the side-kick presented by Karin A. Wenger, a freelance journalist in Switzerland. Karin is involved with the Young Journalists Switzerland (JJS) association, for which she coordinates the Mental Health in Journalism campaign. Last year, we at M100YEJ already addressed the importance of mental health for journalists – a widely underestimated and rarely considered problem that is also of great importance for the quality of journalism. Especially in times of permanent crises and wars, journalists are exposed to high stress factors and experience stressful things that affect their health.
In Karin’s presentation, the participants learned about the success story of this initiative, which has led, among other things, to media companies expanding their mental health services for their employees. They were also made aware of the mental health risks and influencing factors that lead to stress and workload in their industry, such as over-identification, pressure to write stories, and poor career aspects. “Young journalists are afraid to make mistakes because editors shout at them and the culture is ‘we don’t make mistakes’,” Karin said. An open discussion was encouraged, with participants sharing their own working conditions, feelings and advice. “Editors should really have a policy on how to deal with mistakes constructively,” Karin continued.
• Transparency, openness and showing vulnerability are key solutions to work anxiety.
• One should respect one’s own boundaries so that others can also respect these boundaries.
• Private and professional life influence each other.
• It takes practice to feel one’s own feelings.
• Journalists, regardless of their nationality and country, have to deal and struggle with the same problems.
• Journalism is in most cases poorly paid, service-oriented and partly voluntary, which adds to the pressure.
• An empathetic response never begins with, “After all …”

Eva Wackenreuther

“How AFP fights disinfo on Social Media”
In this workshop session, online editor Eva Wackenreuther gave an insight into the daily debunking work of the AFP news agency. In her role as head of the German-language fact-checking department, Eva Wackenreuther emphasised the central role of social media in the spread of disinformation. The team, which consists of over 130 staff, covers over 80 countries in 24 languages. One of their main tasks is to combat misinformation and disinformation, especially on the internet. Eva gave the participants practical know-how and presented tools and techniques to debunk myths, propaganda and fakes that are created and spread on social media platforms. In addition, the group learned how to recognise disinformation and misinformation, which topic is worth addressing, and which guiding principles come into play when writing a fact check. Above all, it is important to adhere to uniform standards, keyword: transparency, a large network to refute claims, as well as achieving impact by directly addressing users.
• Beware of motivated arguments and confirmation bias.
• The way to success is to check metadata and geolocation, use reverse image and keyword searches, and talk to experts.
• Create fact-checking tools yourself if you can’t find one online, because other people probably need it too.
• Archive everything that serves as evidence.
• Describe accurately and be as objective as possible when presenting your findings.
• Think of your own security and use a separate SIM or e-mail address.

Sayyara Mammadova

“Presentation of selected Organisations / Projects of Participants”
This session was about sharing participants’ work activities and projects. For this purpose, three fact checkers were selected from the participants to present their organisations and ways of working: Elene Dvalishvili from FactCheck.ge, the leading fact-checking platform in Georgia, Sayyara Mammadova from the international fact-checking organisation Teyit in Turkey, and Cristina Alonso Pascual from the Spanish start-up Newtral.es. In addition, Méline Laffabry from France presented her project aidóni, an international community of journalists and change agents working on social and armed conflicts with the aim of working together to report on these conflicts in a more constructive, inclusive and solution-oriented way.
• All three fact-checking initiatives presented are members of the International Fact-Checking Network IFCN.
• Google Sheets and Excel are useful to analyse the data after extraction and cleaning.
• Tineye, Google Images and Yandex are tools for reverse image search.
• TG Stat.com is good for monitoring Telegram.
• Reporting on conflict tends to perpetuate negative stereotypes.

Agnieszka M. Walorska (m)

“How Deepfakes affect Politics and the Media”.
Agnieszka M. Walorska, founder of the digital innovation agency Creative Construction, made clear that deepfakes are an established means of disinformation due to the wide availability and low cost of sophisticated algorithms. To illustrate this, she worked with a practical live example. Together with the participants, she generated a deepfake video of former US President Donald Trump using online tools. “It is important for young journalists to know that everything can be faked. If something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t,” Agnieszka said. During the rest of the workshop, they discussed the current state of the technology, its present and future relevance, ways to detect and deal with “synthetic media”, but also the positive aspects of this technology.
• You don’t have to be an experienced AI researcher anymore to create deepfakes, they are easy to make.
• Education and government regulation are key to combating deepfakes.
• Deepfakes are an example of the beneficial and malicious use of technology.
• The fact that there is no surefire technology to expose deepfakes is a threat to society.
• More than 90 per cent of deepfakes relate to involuntary pornography.
• Tools include the text generator Neuroflash, the image generator Midjourney and the voice generator Resemble.

“Advocating Factual Correctness in Times of War in Ukraine”
The question of how young media professionals from a war zone deal with disinformation was the focus of this partly digital workshop unit. Three speakers from Ukraine were connected live via Zoom, shared their experiences and answered questions.
Anastasiia Ivantsova, journalist and M100 alumna, presented VoxCheck, an independent analytical platform that combats disinformation and focuses on the economy, governance, social developments and reforms. It is not supported by political parties or oligarchs. The quality of its materials is ensured through the editorial process, says Anastasiia. To ensure this, VoxUkraine cooperates with the Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne. Anastasiia reported that the platform has increased its focus on Russian propaganda since the February invasion. Telegram played a crucial role in spreading misinformation about Russia’s war in Ukraine. Therefore, the monitoring of Telegram channels was expanded from weekly to daily. As a result, the number of exposed fakes was increased by +40 %. They also launched new multimedia projects to detect disinformation and spread the information about it.

Roman Melnyk is the founder of the Wikipatrol initiative and also an M100 alumnus. The Wikipatrol team scans Wikipedia for falsifications, half-truths and unbalanced information on Russian-, English- and Polish-language pages and corrects them if they contain untruths or propaganda. It monitors important English-language pages that are particularly often affected by Russian propaganda and creates new pages on war-related topics such as the massacre in Bucha, the siege of Mariupol, the battle for Kyiv or the air raid on the theatre in Mariupol. Roman showed the participants in detail how to check facts in Wikipedia:
1. check previous versions and editing history of Wikipedia pages.
2. check editing on conspicuous pages of the corresponding Wikipedia editor – is the user only pursuing the purpose of spreading propaganda or has he been for 10 years and made 100,000 edits?
4. checking the page in the other available languages.

Post to Stop War
Iren Skyshliak is involved with the Post to Stop War platform, which provides news in different languages with a short textual and visual commentary on the Russian war on Ukraine. She emphasised that the project is not about fact-checking, but about art as a medium for encounter and dialogue about the war. The team consists of communication and cultural scientists, economists and historians. They create visual explanations for text messages that are translated into more than 28 languages. A team of volunteers from different countries helps translate the messages into the different languages.
• Private sector companies are dangerous when they set standards in disinformation without government regulation.
• The role of the human factor in a fact-checking process cannot be underestimated.
• Meta needs to create more transparent tools for journalists and civil society actors on its platforms.
• Meta needs to increase its transparency to improve communication with journalists.

“Factchecking on Meta: How Meta deals with False News”
Meta is famously the largest social media company in the world and has long been criticised for its handling of user data and its role in spreading hate messages, misinformation and disin

Sophie Eyears

formation on its platforms. Sophie Eyears leads Facebook’s and Instagram’s misinfo initiatives and the third-party fact-checking programme in Europe, which was launched in 40 countries across the continent in 2016. In her session, she informed participants about Meta’s investment in the issue of false news, as well as its “Remove, Reduce and Inform” strategy for dealing with problematic content. She highlighted the fact that user feedback reports, untrustworthy comments and AI tools serve as identification methods that are shared with the collaborative fact-checking initiatives.
• Private sector companies are dangerous when they set standards in disinformation without government regulation.
• The role of the human factor in a fact-checking process cannot be underestimated.
• Meta needs to create more transparent tools for journalists and civil society actors on its platforms.
• Meta needs to increase its transparency to improve communication with journalists.

“How to Stay Journalistically Independent in Times of War and Perpetual Crisis?”
In this workshop session, participants discussed values in journalism and questioned their own independence in reporting. Max Hofmann, Head of News and Current Affairs at Deutsche Welle, led the discussions by presenting different hypotheses. In doing so, he also conveyed how journalistic independence has developed and how one can b

Max Hofmann

e independent of personal values. In his presentation, he showed how journalistic independence has developed. The bad news is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to earn a living. Serious journalism in social media is not the norm. Public broadcasting suffers from a lack of trust. Propaganda and fake news on the rise.
But there is also good news: There would be a much greater awareness in the journalistic community, no more pretending that journalists own the only truth and that they are objective. And: the Ukraine war has reminded the audience of the value of fact-based and balanced journalism. “We need to make it clear to our viewers that they can trust us and what the benefits are of having independent information to form an opinion, for example, on who to vote for,” Max said. He also explained impartiality at Deutsche Welle and emphasised the challenge for public broadcasters to avoid conflicts of interest in times of social media.
• Resilience is achieved through transparency.
• Journalism is value-driven and not objective.
• Journalists must try to balance and remember that a terrorist can also be a freedom fighter.
• If you really believe in journalistic values, you should stay in this industry and develop this profession.
• It is important to be aware of your personal opinion and the values you share.
• Sometimes media organisations are part of a system change.
• The war in Ukraine has reminded the audience of the values of fact-based and balanced journalism.
• We should call a duck a duck (and not be blind to facts).

“How the Federal Government Deals with Disinformation”.
Targeted false information is another form of warfare, apart from the use of weapons and sanctions. This fact calls on ministries and agencies to act. Christiane Hoffmann is the First Deputy

Christiane Hoffmann

Spokesperson of the Federal Government in Germany and explained in this event responsibilities and measures of the Federal Government and on the European level. A central role is played, for example, by the European External Action Service, which lists current cases of disinformation from Russia on its website EuvsDisinfo.eu. Pointing to the subversive intentions of disinformation to intimidate the population and undermine their sense of security, Christiane Hoffmann entered into conversation with the participants. The focus was on forms of anti-Western narratives, Hoffmann’s experience of switching from journalism to public relations, and the government’s attitude towards fact-checking media outlets. “Of course, as a government we do a lot to monitor and expose disinformation, but we cannot do it alone. We need the support of non-governmental organisations, academic research and independent journalism to fact-check and make people aware of the danger of disinformation. Journalists control functioning democracies,” Hoffmann said.
• Instead of suppressing Russian propaganda, the German government focuses on supporting liberal, independent media in Germany.
• According to Christiane Hoffmann, it is much more effective for the German government not to ban content, but to try to get people to think critically and show what the government thinks. Taking action against certain content or media outlets could have the opposite effect and attract more attention.
• Freedom of speech and expression is a great value, even if it sometimes leads to misinformation/disinformation.
• Governments have departments to fight and monitor disinformation.
• Governments need to work with civil society in the fight against misinformation.

“Excursion: Visit to Storymachine”.
On the last day of the seminar in Berlin, participants visited Storymachine, a social media agency founded in 2017. Co-founder Philipp Jessen led the group through the company’s headquarters, which 100 years ago housed a variety theatre. The gallery, theatre hall and original murals have been preserved to this day and give the agency, which employs around 100 people, a special flair. The tour was followed by insights into the company’s crisis management, which also included how to deal with misinformation and its possible effects on companies. Participants also gained insight into Storymachine’s guidelines for managing potential crisis scenarios.
• Good crisis communication starts before the crisis has developed.
• Storytelling is key and will be even more present in the future.
• Admit your mistake and apologise to the public to calm the crisis.
• Journalists should keep an eye on marketing companies that use their journalistic background as PR and are data-driven and work with sensitive data that could influence public opinion.

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium 2022: War and Peace. A new World Order
The workshop ended with the participation in the international media conference M100 Sanssouci Colloquium at the Orangerie Sanssouci in Potsdam, which took place for the 18th time. The young journalists were able to take part in the plenary tables and three strategic working groups and exchange ideas with the other participants of the colloquium.
At the beginning of the conference, the participants presented the theme of the seminar and two media projects they had developed during the week. The first one, “Project Perun”, focuses on debunking pro-Russian and anti-Western narratives across Europe – including those emanating from the refugee crisis and an economic collapse of the EU. The aim of the project is to show Europe as a united force fighting against disinformation campaigns to manage and overcome the crisis. The results will be published continuously on the website https://projectperun.wordpress.com.
The second project addresses the important issue of mental health in journalism. For this, the participants have created journomind with the aim of founding an international movement of media professionals. The idea was born out of a desire to provide a safe space for journalists to share their stories about the impact of crisis and war reporting, bullying, working under pressure and much more. The results are continuously published on the Instagram channel @journomind.

Presentation of the M100YEJ @ M100SC

• It is a rare opportunity to exchange contacts and network with many stakeholders involved, including high-level media and opinion leaders, policy makers and academics.
• The chance to present in front of high-level media representatives strengthens one’s communication skills.
• It became clear that everyone is on the same side when it comes to disinformation and Russian propaganda in the media industry.
• Wolfgang Ischinger’s discussion with Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu shed light on the small political players in Europe and their positions, which are too often viewed and discussed from the perspective of the big European players.
• Discussing global problems together is important to find solutions.
• Europe realises that it has not done enough to help Ukraine so far.

Recognising disinformation as such is often more difficult and complex than generally assumed. Not only is news fabricated, but false connections are made between headlines and content, or information is distorted to achieve a certain result. In addition, there are technically generated fakes in the form of video, images and sound; with the advent of these new technologies, it is becoming even more difficult to detect and counteract false information.
There are also different types of content in the context of disinformation. Misinformation refers to the unintentional or unknowing dissemination of false or incorrect information. Misinformation is true information used to cause harm. Disinformation is demonstrably false or misleading information. It is predominantly perceived – in the midst of the war in Ukraine – as the most dangerous, as it causes harm to society and contributes to division.
It has also become apparent how difficult and at the same time important it is to remain journalistically independent on social media platforms, as fake news and propaganda are on the rise and the attention economy forces newsrooms to adapt. As a result, it is also poor working conditions that can lead to disproportionately high mental stress and possibly psychological problems for journalists, regardless of nationality or country.

“In the last five days I had the opportunity to talk to young journalists from 17 different countries – mainly from countries of the former Soviet Union – about journalism, the current problems of the industry and the opportunities. Once again, it became clear to me how privileged the position of journalists is in Germany, but also how important journalism is for democracy in general. Secondly, I became aware of this common danger of disinformation for our democracies. Because Russia’s current war against Ukraine is not only a war waged with physical weapons, but also with information. Russia is waging a disinformation war against Ukraine, but also against the whole of Europe. I believe that few people are blunt enough to be aware of this.”
Moritz Hergl, Germany

“It was my first experience to work with international journalists and fact-checkers from 17 European countries. It was definitely the most inspiring learning by far! More importantly, this year we dealt with a topical and hugely important issue – disinformation and fake news around the Russia-Ukraine war.”
Tania Skyba, Ukraine

“Thank you so much for having me at this incredible event and for taking care of everything! I really appreciate it! I really hope we will meet again and keep in touch! And to all the participants – you guys are amazing!!! I am so happy to have met you guys! Thank you for your support and understanding. The network we got through the workshop is priceless! I definitely want to see you all again.”
Olena Kuk, Ukraine

“I am so grateful for this unforgettable trip. It was a pleasure to meet these young, talented journalists and fact-checkers from all over Europe. I will never forget the experience I gained over the past few days and will use as many tools as I can to do my part in the fight against disinformation and the spread of fake news.”
Erekle Poladishvili, Georgia

Tania Skyba, Olena Kuk, Wladimir Klitschko at the M100 Media Awards ceremony the the people of Ukraine.